It's a film of two halves. The first half (well, third) is normal and I quite enjoyed it. It's about a gentle debt collector (Yuji, played by the always reliable Youji Tanaka) who's having a terrible day. He's too nice to be capable of doing his job properly, he's flat broke, his boss is a bully, his mother sponges off him and he's about to get told that he's dying of cancer. The latter helps him overcome his assertiveness problem, but it's probably also why he visits a deeply inadvisable cabaret. (We're talking about the kind of place that charges a hundred bucks for a cola and you'll probably get your fingers broken if you don't buy at least two.)
Admittedly there's a nice girl (Kaoru, played by Yuri Kijima) who works at a bookshop and might possibly like Yuji, but even she has some regrettable beliefs if you get to know her.
All this is reasonably good. You wouldn't call it upbeat, admittedly, and Yuji makes some bad decisions. However Tanaka is a grand old acting veteran and endlessly watchable, Kijima is sweet and you're never far away from some weirdness and surrealism. A glass cylinder is travelling towards Earth and there are multiple versions of Shiina Eihi (from Audition) in a deeply unnatural white-and-shiny-green ensemble with a top hat, long coat, long boots and a shocking wig. She walks Tokyo's streets painting unnecessary white lines on them.
After that, everything goes beyond mental and you realise you're watching a Yoshihiro Nishimura film.
This franchise has history, for what it's worth. I haven't seen its predecessors, but apparently this latest one is the craziest of them. Here's the list:
- Meatball Machine (1999)
- Meatball Machine (2005 remake)
- Meatball Machine: Reject of Death (2007 video short)
- Meatball Machine Kodoku (2017 remake/sequel/whatever)
What happens is that the glass cylinder hits Tokyo and proves to have been ten kilometres long. There's a severed penis and two bisected people whose lower halves don't stop having sex, followed by comedy ultra-gore and alien transformations so extreme that I couldn't tell what I was looking at. Eyes get drilled out. Severed heads get linked together and thrown as bolas, whereupon they start talking to you. Alien parasites turn people into psychotic cyborg murder machines. Suddenly Yuji looks as if RoboCop and Cthulhu fell together into a car crusher.
It's completely ridiculous, in that Tokyo Gore Police way that's super-violent but not inherently that interesting. The fights and gore are of course absurd, which can be entertaining in its low-rent way, but I don't think I'd have stuck out an hour of only that. What's important is that Yuji still cares about Kaoru and wants to try to rescue and protect her, despite all this Nishimura-ness.
Is there nudity? It's glorying in being trash, so obviously the question has to be asked. The answer's "no" for most of the film, but then we get killer cyborg boobs and a topless woman riding a monster cyborg speeder vehicle by using her own top as reins.
I wouldn't recommend this film, but it's not without interest. It's surprisingly serious about its Yuji-Kaoru story, even as the rest of the film gets explosively silly. The finale's surprising and dark in ways I hadn't expected, but then it tops that with a savagely parodic explanation of what all this had been in aid of. It's funny, but in a way that's a bit Douglas Adams. This film has vigilante martial arts policemen with samurai swords, led by a man with a Hitler moustache. (At one point his subordinates give him something that starts out as a Hitler salute.) It has homage music. It's lurid insanity with a surprisingly strong human dimension. It has over-the-top things happening to people who gave Yuji grief in the film's normal third. It made me laugh with a teenage boy getting sliced and diced.
It's more interesting than a lot of these knowingly laughable ultra-gorefests that Japan keeps making. However I still can't see myself rewatching it.